Product design is probably one of the most neglected marketing aspects. They have been an important factor in the most successful product launches in the past two years. This is what Nielsen found in an analysis of 9,900 product launches across Europe.

The latest annual Breakthrough Innovation Report from Nielsen analyzed 9,900 product launches across Europe. Out of many successful initiatives, Nielsen selected eleven that were truly groundbreaking. All eleven – including Colgate, Air Wick and Whiskas – achieved sales of at least 7.5 million euros in the first year after the market launch (five million euros for launches in Eastern Europe) and held at least 90 percent of that in the second year.

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The majority decide on the shelf what they want to buy

Product design became the central theme due to the number of consumer choices made right in front of the shelf. “It looks like product design is often receiving less attention than other marketing aspects and its influence is clearly underestimated,” explains Ingo Schier, CEO of Nielsen Germany. “How important it is to look at the product yourself on the shelf cannot be underestimated. Marketers are increasingly focusing on where to advertise their products in a media-saturated world. However, almost 60 percent of product decisions are made on the shelf. 56 percent of European consumers say the new product discoveries they make in store are one of the best sources of information. Only 45 percent say this about TV spots. “

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Striking examples: Whiskas, Air Wick and Gold Mine Beers Zhivoe

The study points to outstanding examples of whiskas in the UK and Air Wick. However, it starts with the most striking example of the role of product design in successful launch: Gold Mine Beers Zhivoe, Russia’s first unpasteurized beer. Since unpasteurized beer has a limited shelf life but a fresh taste, the brand’s agency created a bottle that resembles a freshly drawn glass of beer. The consumers created the connection to the “refreshing taste of draft beer and a bar-like situation”, says Schier. “The design contrasted with traditional beer packaging, so the bottles on the shelves quickly ran out of stock and retailers were filling their warehouses with the product.”

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Whiskas took a new direction with its cat food packaging. “Our new packaging is designed to help cat owners buy the right food based on their cat’s age,” says Gina Head, Senior Brand Manager at Mars Petcare. The design is characterized by clearer identification of the age for which the food is suitable, striking colors, larger fonts, a lighter closure and a larger cat picture. “It may sound simple, but the second consumers decide which cat food to buy, these things really make a difference and give consumers confidence that their cat is always getting the right nutrition.”

With Air Wick’s Pure air freshener spray, consumer testing revealed an advantage that the team hadn’t clearly seen before, because it was just a by-product of how the formula was developed. In contrast to conventional aerosol air fresheners, it did not moisten surfaces such as furniture, clothing or the skin. Airwick chose a clearly designed bottle to support this key attribute – an aerosol that dispersed instantly into the air with no spray deposition. Retailers immediately saw the value in the sleek simplicity of the concept, which allowed Pure to be priced 20 percent above competing offerings.

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Our analyzes of more than 90 product redesign initiatives show how much attention marketers should pay to product design. “While a typical design agency only presents three or four designs, there are brand managers who test over 30 different designs,” says Schier. “It shows that brands that have tested at least five designs on consumers respond significantly better to consumer preference and shelf placement than brands that tried fewer design options.”

The report can be downloaded free of charge here.

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